*Photo Credit: Beauty Schools Directory

2016 Record: 8-8

NFL Draft: Rd- 1 CB, Marlon Humphrey; Rd- 2 LB, Tyus Bowser; Rd- 3 DE, Chris Wormley; Rd- 3 OLB, Tim Williams; Rd- 4 G, Nico Siragusa; Rd- 5 OL, Jermaine Eluemunor; Rd- 6 S, Chuck Clark

Pitt Players: QB, Joe Flacco #5 (transferred to Delaware after sophomore season); ILB, Bam Bradley #53

Team Overview:

2016 was an average year for an average team, as the Ravens went 8-8. With poor weapons for Joe Flacco, a banged up offensive line, and an injury plagued defense, this team should have been 5-11, as they were in 2015. John Harbaugh has shown in his years as the Ravens head coach that he can out-coach just about anyone in the league. Harbaugh broke into the league as a Special Teams coach for the Eagles, so it was only fitting that the Ravens bright spot last season was the special teams play. Justin Tucker is automatic anywhere inside of, well, 62 yards; and Sam Koch has the ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory from any place on the field. Last season, this banged up squad, that was so short on offensive weapons, was only a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass to Antonio Brown away from being in the playoffs. General Manager Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh both knew this summer was going to be crucial, and they sure did some amazing work.

Losing Steve Smith (retired), Timmy Jernigan (signed with Eagles), Zach Orr (retired), Dennis Pitta (retired), and Kyle Jusczyk (signed with 49ers) created some big holes in the Ravens roster. However, Ozzie and John stuck to their guns in the draft, filling the defensive holes and creating some offensive line depth. Marlon Humphrey is an incredible athlete and would be the starting corner on most NFL teams. Last year’s surprise standout corner, Tavon Young, being out for the season should cause Humphrey to be the slot receiver this season. Tyus Bowser is comparable to Steelers LB Ryan Shazier, with less speed but more size. His job will be replacing another standout in Zachary Orr, who had to prematurely retire with a rare spinal condition, and will be a player to watch for sure. However, I think Tim Williams could be the steal of the draft. The Alabama product is an athletic freak. He had one job at Alabama, rush the quarterback, and he sure can do that. Tim Williams has the potential and tools to be as dominant a pass rusher as Raiders stud Khalil Mack so long as he keeps his off the field issues to a minimum. The Ravens are no strangers to having linebackers with off the field issues, and if Ravens long time pass rushing machine Terrell Suggs can take him under his wing, big things could happen.

The Ravens also explored free agency this summer. Jeremy Maclin was inked to a deal after playing in not-so-receiver-friendly Kansas City. Maclin may still have it in him to match his production from his days as an Eagle. Mike Wallace was able to resurrect his career last year as a Raven (graded as the best receiver on slant routes by PFF https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/pro-the-leagues-best-receivers-for-each-type-of-route), so maybe Maclin can as well. Former first round pick Breshad Perriman has had a great camp going into his in all reality “make or break” season, and could be dangerous in the slot with Wallace and Maclin attracting attention. The Ravens also added Danny Woodhead (fantasy players, he will be an amazing flex starter in this offense) who will excel as a security blanket for Flacco. A more quiet signing in former Giants tight end Larry Donnell could also prove to be a valuable weapon to Flacco. The best addition on the offensive side, though, was former Raiders tackle Austin Howard. In 2015, Howard was one of the best right tackles, however last season he battled a shoulder injury all year that hindered his performance. Even with that injury, Howard played on an offensive line that only allowed 18 sacks all season, which is impressive. Defensively, the Ravens are going to be ranked highly this season. Adding two studs in CB Brandon Carr from the Cowboys and S Tony Jefferson from the Cardinals to a secondary that already includes All-Pro S Eric Weddle will make this defensive backfield dangerous. These players, along with one of the most underrated CBs in the game, Jimmy Smith (don’t believe me, just watch his work against Antonio Brown), first round pick CB Marlon Humphrey, and a jack of all trades DB Lardarius Webb, the Ravens have one of the deepest and most impressive secondary units in football. CJ Mosley is one of the best ILB in football and with a unit that includes Terrell Suggs, Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser, Kamalei Correa, and Matt Judon (surprisingly good pass rusher last season), they have a linebacker unit that is young and hungry to make plays. Those two units behind one of the best NT, in Brandon Williams, an athletic tank in DE Brent Urban (watch this guy swat field goals) and DE Michael Pierce (the guy from Samford who turned out to play just like former Raven, Haloti Ngata) this defense, if healthy, could be the best unit in the NFL. (At the time of writing, the Ravens have only allowed 258 total yards and 10 total points through two preseason games; that’s domination.) If this team can stay healthy, they could surprise the NFL this year.

Game By Game Predictions:

Week 1: Away at the Cincinnati Bengals

What a way to start the season: division game on the road against a team the Ravens have struggled with. The Bengals added some offensive talent, but I don’t think they will have their roles straightened out. The Bengals also lost some key defensive pieces and having Vontaze Burfict on your team means really dumb penalties will occur in crucial moments. I think Flacco throws for 2 touchdowns and the Ravens come out the winners thanks to a bad Bengals penalty late.

Predicted Score: 20-13 Ravens (Current Record 1-0)

Week 2: Home vs. the Cleveland Browns

Cleveland improved and have a good pass rush and a good running back in Crowell; however, Osweiler looks to be their starter and they have an awful secondary on top of losing their best two offensive passing game weapons:Terrell Pryor and Gary Barnidge. Flacco dominates Cleveland every single time they play and Brock Osweiler will have an awful outing against this Ravens defense. Flacco will toss 3 TD’s and West is bound to run one in during this home opening blowout.

Predicted Score: 34-10 Ravens (Current Record 2-0)

Week 3: Away vs Jacksonville Jaguars (London)

Well, this game will actually take place in London. The Jaguars have an average defense and have two bright spots on offense, Allen Robinson (#FreeAllenRobinson, the man deserves an actual QB) and first round pick Leonard Fournette. However, if you plan on winning football games with Chad Henne or Blake Bortles as your signal caller, your plan sucks. Flacco tosses 2 TD’s and the Defense gets a pick six.

Predicted Score: 27-6 Ravens (Current Record 3-0)

Week 4: Home vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers

I have no idea what it is, but when the Steelers come to play at M&T Bank Stadium, they don’t come to play. The home encounter of this division rivalry for the Ravens lately has been a sloppy game for both sides, with Justin Tucker pulling the weight for a Ravens victory. I again predict a sloppy game, With Flacco throwing 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s but Tucker’s leg getting the win.

Predicted Score: 17-14 Ravens in overtime (Current Record 4-0)

Week 5: Away at the Oakland Raiders

Finally, the Raiders will hand the Ravens their first loss. The Raiders improved defensively and Derek Carr will again lead a juggernaut offense this season. The Raiders are just too much to handle in this one, Carr will throw 2 TD’s and Lynch will run 2 in.

Predicted Score: 31-17 Raiders (Current Record 4-1)

Week 6: Home vs. the Chicago Bears

It will be pleasant for the Ravens to fly back home and realize they are playing the Bears, a team that is shaping up to be a dumpster fire. Mike Glennon is terrible, Trubisky is raw, and Alshon Jeffery left town. Jordan Howard is this team’s saving grace, but it’s going to be ugly. The defense of the Ravens will destroy the Bears Offense and Flacco should fare well against one of the worst secondary units in the NFL.

Predicted Score: 31-10 Ravens (Current Record 5-1)

Week 7: Away at the Minnesota Vikings

The Ravens are sitting at 5-1, but before you call me crazy, just recap again how easy they have it for the first six games. This game just jumps off the schedule as a loss. On the road against the Vikings, a team with an amazing defense and an offense that can just give you enough to win. Actually, the Vikings are a lot like the Ravens if you think about it. The home side will win this defensive battle, however.

Predicted Score: 13-9 Vikings (Current Record 5-2)

Week 8: Home vs. the Miami Dolphins

Again Baltimore gets to return home and play an opponent that they continuously defeat: the Miami Dolphins. The Ravens seem to play some of their best football against the Dolphins and I think that trend continues. Miami will either have Cutler or Matt Moore at the helm and their defense did not improve. I predict a standard Joe Flacco 250 yards and 2TD outing in this one.

Predicted Score: 27-17 Ravens (Current Record 6-2)

Week 9: Away at the Tennessee Titans

The Titans are legit. Marcus Mariota is legit. Do not be shocked when the Titans are competing with Oakland and Pittsburgh for that first round playoff bye week. The Titans will just be a little too much at home for the Ravens. Mariota will have a statement performance.

Predicted Score: 24-13 Titans (Current Record 6-3)

Week 10: Bye-Week

The Ravens sit at 6-3, and have had a fairly easy schedule, especially at home. A week to rest up nagging injuries and work on some new plays will prepare this team for the second half run. However bad news awaits them.

Week 11: Away at the Green Bay Packers

Green Bay at Lambeau Field in November is the last game you want to see on your schedule. By this time the R-E-L-A-X Aaron Rodgers is now leading a super hot team down the stretch after a slow start. Rodgers will continue to run the table and move past the Ravens.

Predicted Score: 28-13 Packers (Current Record 6-4)

Week 12: Home vs. the Houston Texans

The Ravens last two seasons have had 3 game losing streaks. After back to back tough road losses against formidable opponents, The Ravens find themselves against a Defensive powerhouse in the Texans. Confidence is at a low, and I think Houston leaves with the win.

Predicted Score: 16-10 Texans (Current Record 6-5)

Week 13: Home vs. the Detroit Lions

If there is any squad that gets as cold as the weather in December, it is Detroit. It seems like they are so close to finally winning their division but then blow it late as Green Bay passes them. The Ravens will rediscover their winning ways in this one.

Predicted Score: 23-10 Ravens (Current Record 7-5)

Week 14:  Away at the Pittsburgh Steelers

This will be a close one, but the Ravens will probably be banged up going into it. The Steelers will be on their late push and heading for another division title. This one could go either way, though, given the intense rivalry; but Pittsburgh is hard to beat at Heinz and the “Steeler Nation” will bring the noise for this Sunday night divisional showdown.

Predicted Score: 20-16 Steelers (Current Record 7-6)

Week 15: Away at the Cleveland Browns

Well this has bounce back game written all over it. Who knows who the Browns will be starting under center at this point? The Ravens will need this win, and will show it on the field.

Predicted Score: 27-9 Ravens (Current Record 8-6)

Week 16: Home vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Ravens get a short week matchup for this Thursday night affair against the Colts. Will Andrew Luck be healthy? I just don’t think the Colts are that good, and faced with another must win game, the Ravens take this one at home.

Predicted Score: 24-20 Ravens (Current Record 9-6)

Week 17: Home vs. the Cincinnati Bengals

Well this is interesting. The difference between 9-7 and 10-6 is surprisingly big in appearance. The difference between winning big-time games is coaching. The Ravens enter this game at 9-6 and Bengals at 8-7 with a wild card spot on the line. It’s a big time game, and as stated, coaching is the difference. The Bengals poor coaching will cost them. Back to the difference between 9-7 and 10-6, which numerically is one game, and this game will be decided by a point. Harbaugh’s special teams will rise to the occasion with a crucial blocked extra point.

Predicted Score: 17-16 Ravens (Current Record 10-6)

Final Results:

The Ravens finish 10-6 and get the 5th seed, coming in second to an 11 win Steelers team in the AFC North. The beginning and end stretches of the Ravens schedule are so easy, and it seems every time they need a win, they are scheduled to play a team that they can get one against. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen. Flacco is a little above average in the regular season, but in the playoffs he blossoms into an elite QB. His playoff record backs that up, owning two victories over Tom Brady at Foxborough and has also defeated the likes of Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, and Peyton Manning in the playoffs. Joe Flacco also holds an NFL record eight road playoff wins during his career. Baltimore’s surprise season will end somewhere in the playoffs with something to build on for next season, thanks in most part to a dominant defense and some very easy stretches of their schedule.

Predicted Record: 10-6